Barbara Cook

Years ago someone told me that I would love Barbara Cook.  It took
me until last year to see her for the first time.  The great
limiting factor to be upfront was the cost.  It’s about $100 minimum to
see her.  That’s a lot of money.  Also, she performs in nice clubs, and
as I generally go out alone, it’s somewhat intimidating to go into a
really nice club by yourself.  It’s easy to sneak into a dive bar/music
club on your own, but much more awkward to do that somewhere like the
Carlyle, where I saw her for the first time last year.

In the
intervening years I had also had a change of heart about seeing older
performers.  In the past I had not gone to see a lot of older singers,
because guys (meaning musicians) told me that they weren’t as good as
they used to be.  Being a woman, I took someone else’s not-so-good
advice seriously, instead of making my own decision.  In 2006, the year
before my son was born, I was like eff it.  Even if these people aren’t
exactly how they used to be, I still should go see them.  As a result,
I’ve seen Mark Murphy, Ernestine Anderson, Annie Ross, and Jimmy Scott
a number of times.  Unfortunately, I missed Blossom Dearie, Barbara
Lea, and Freddie Hubbard, but hopefully I won’t miss anyone else.  I
saw Barbara Cook for the first time last year at the Carlyle.  It was a
magical experience.  When it was over, I was sad that I had to leave the club.  I wanted to stay in that wonderful bubble
following her performance for as long as possible, rather than go out
into the real world. 

having loved her performance at the Carlyle last year, I still arrived
at Feinstein’s Tuesday night thinking, “Shit, this is a lot of money to
spend.”  It’s not easy to tell your husband that you are going to be
spending over $100 to see a singer, whatever the state of the economy
is, and no matter how wonderful the singer is.  I also had lots of
other things on my mind.  I hadn’t seen my husband all week, because he
had been away on business.  I’ve been really busy working on the
promotion of my new CD, in particular getting in some gigs before I
have my 2nd child in August.  As to be expected, I was among a handful
of people in the audience under the age of 50, which I always find
depressing.  I got there a few minutes before it started and was afraid
I wouldn’t be able to see well from where they sat me.  I thought to
myself, “What the heck am I doing here?” 

the show started.  Through the first few songs, I still had that “What
the heck am I doing here?” feeling, coupled with a fear that this
year’s experience would not compare to last year’s.  After a few songs,
all of my anxiety dissipated.  Barbara Cook is truly a wonderful
singer.  I could hear her sing “Where or When” 1000x.  She also sings
Sondheim so well.  There are some people who are crazy about Sondheim,
but I am not one of them.  I think that hearing a very skilled,
experienced performer like Barbara Cook sing these tunes outside of the
context of the show, for which they were written, made me appreciate
them a lot more.  I also find it quite amusing how she calls him
“Steve” or “Stephen”.

only is she a fantastic interpreter with a lovely voice, but she also
sets up the tunes so beautifully with her patter.  At the show I saw
this year she spoke a lot more in between songs than she did in the
show I saw last year.  She told a very amusing story about her
obsession with an opera singer.  She told a very funny story about
staying up late watching You Tube.  She spoke about how she never
performed Cole Porter songs, probably because she didn’t really
identify with them.  Throughout I had this laugh of recognition,
because I could relate to everything that she said. 

remember in last year’s show to set up a ballad she made a comment
about how when you are in a relationship, you want the other person to
tell you what you want to hear, but how that sometimes doesn’t happen. 
Well, I’m paraphrasing her, because she said it more succinctly, but
that was her point.  At the time I was rehearsing my new CD, I’m in
Heaven Tonight
, and what she said really resonated with me, in
particular in reference to one song on the album.  Even now when I
think about her comment and how true it is, it makes me somewhat

During the show I thought about the patter and the
songs she chose and I couldn’t help the feeling that as I watched her,
I was looking at myself – the good side and the dark side – 40 plus
years on, minus the Broadway shows.  I’ve always known that I am a
singer for a reason, but sometimes I can be sort of inward looking and
forgetful that there are others who are singers for a reason as well. 
Then again, she does what a singer should do – allow the audience to
see their own experience in the material.  I only know my own life, but still in Barbara Cook I see a set of experiences and a
way of thinking that are very familiar to me, a little too familiar.


Having seen her perform now a couple of times and having read a
few interviews of her, she comes across to me as someone who is
painfully honest with herself and someone who also has the ability to
laugh at herself.  These qualities I believe are what make her a such a
good singer.  I can be brutally honest with myself at times as well,
but I don’t think I’m really at the point in my life where I can
process things so readily or laugh at myself so easily.  Maybe that
will come with time.  In the meantime, unfortunately for my husband,
I’ll be shelling out another $100 next year and in every other year
that she is still performing.

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